Everyone now knows that, in the main, it is good quality web content that attracts even casual browsers and promoting your site certainly increases the total number of page impressions. But is all the effort it takes really worthwhile? Are sheer numbers of visitors to your site irrelevant? Probably.
Unless you attract the right kind of visitors who will spend money with you your efforts could all be in vain. As any experienced salesmen will confirm, the rest are just time wasters or dreamers having a look around. The challenge therefore is finding the proper spenders and the only way to achieve this is through effective targeting and promotion.
All the best targeting methods follow the same tried and tested method known as self-selection. To leverage this you should concentrate online promotion on those areas where visitors have shown, merely by hanging around that they are potential prospects. Some of the most obvious ways that people "self-select" on the internet are through mailing lists, reciprocal site links, viral marketing, newsgroups and the use of search engines.
Of course search engines are the number one way of bringing large amounts of new visitors to any website, and Google is undoubtedly the most popular and for you the most important. Whatever else you do, make sure you are well listed on Google by identifying phrases that people are using to search for sites like yours and do make sure you have at least one page on your site that contains this phrase several times in the text.
It is also vital to use the same phrase in the page title and then in meta description and in the keyword tags. If you have some spare cash you might also consider a pay-per-click campaign – in which you buy targeted adverts which just appear when certain keywords are used. For example, if you sold wide shoes for women, you could purchase the words ‘wide shoes for women’ so that when anybody enters this phrase on the search engines, up comes your advert.
Affiliate marketing is another way forward for many companies since there are no vague advertising expenses. You only pay out a commission when something is actually sold from your site. Many publishers with relevant content can display special links to your site and in return for referring the lead and producing a sale they receive a commission. Small businesses can operate schemes through proper affiliate marketing companies such as Affiliate Window or Webgains where they encourage websites to place a promotional banner or a text link in return for a percentage of products sold. You may even consider operating your own affiliate scheme but this can be complicated to set up.
Loyalty schemes are another useful option where regular customers may receive points to redeem against future products, or be given discounts as they spend more money with you. Some of the more sophisticated online store software allows you to introduce personalisation with individual password logins and customer specific pricing, so you can offer more regular purchasers even better prices.
Relevant links are another way forward where you can tie in with sites that have content relating to your business. If the sites in question are not in competition with you, providing a reciprocal link can grow traffic. You should try to select sites that are likely to attract people who are also likely prospects for your product or service. These might include local business sites or information sites and don’t forget that having links on popular sites will also improve your search engine ranking. Always check that sites that display your link don’t have a ‘no-follow’ policy.
Viral marketing can be reasonably effective and is the equivalent to online recommendations and usually occurs when people spread the word via email about your product or service. For viral marketing to be effective, your content needs to add value, be entertaining, informative and answer questions to problems, if it is successful this can have a huge impact on your traffic. Once at your site, you can make it easy for visitors to promote you with ‘email this to a friend’ and ‘tell a friend about this site’ functionality. Also you should ensure that every outbound email from your company includes your website address – the most obvious way to promote, but often ignored.
Mailing lists and newsgroups can both work well for your site. You can build up your own mailing list of customers and prospects who have contacted you or purchased from your site. You may want to send a regular e-newsletter communication, or email with special offers, news of sales and product updates. Do strictly follow the guidance of the Data Protection Act and Advertising Standards Authority code and request permission from your contacts before mailing; failure to do this means that you are theoretically sending spam mail.
Newsgroups are places on the internet where you go to read and post messages. If you don't explicitly visit, you don't see the messages. Used with care they can be a valuable promotional tool. Making them work for you depends on the product or service that you offer and the size of both your business and typical customer. The majority of newsgroup participants are from small businesses or are consumers.
Newsgroups can be particularly effective if you wish to grow your international market or find foreign agents. When participating ensure that don’t post direct advertisements - rather try to genuinely contribute to discussions and promote your business within your sign off, signature file. To participate effectively you need to join a newsgroup and watch the postings for a few days before you first contribute. The most effective groups are moderated where every posting is checked by the moderator. Newsgroups that are allowed to be over-run with adverts soon lose their support.